How to Keep Your Marriage Strong on a First Responder or Military Work Schedule

A man wearing a military uniform and holding the hands of his wife.

They say marriage is not supposed to be easy—and they’re right. Marriage is something that needs tending to. Like a fire, you don’t want the flame to go out. While most couples have dinner together every night to discuss the day’s events and focus on their relationship, what do you do when one or even both partners are either constantly on-call, gone for months at a time, or on a revolving schedule? Welcome to the life of military and first responder marriages. These schedules make keeping a marriage healthy and alive a little harder. Here are some tips on how to keep your spark alive!

Schedule Time Together to Touch Base

Two pairs of hands holding coffee cups to signify conversation in a marriage.

Scheduling time together doesn’t sound sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic, but it’s worth it. When you’re dealing with a crazy schedule and maybe a child or two, snagging an hour or even 15 minutes a day (or a week if they’re not at home) with your spouse can really cut down on stress. Use this time in two ways: to discuss what’s happening in your life and to also just enjoy one another’s company. This way, the “buisness” side of marriage won’t or can’t conflict with the romantic side. Being informed and updated with each other’s important issues will make the other time you’re together for fun more enjoyable. Silence your phones (if possible) and focus on each other’s needs and your connection. So while scheduling time together may not sound great at the beginning, it will be when you’re not trying to remind each other of doctor appointments during an otherwise intimate moment. Sticking to this practice will eventually make it something that won’t need to be scheduled in the future. You can fall into a pattern just as you have with your work schedule, and it will come naturally.

Find Communication Practices that Work for Both of You

This is key to any strong and healthy relationship, but in the military or first responder fields it’s not always immediately possible. You might not have the option to call them while you’re at lunch and they can pause everything to chat—or you might not even have daily communication options at all! Feeling like you can’t share important or even exciting news immediately can cause stress for any person, especially now in our society when you always have a phone on you. As hard as it is to not just explode with information the minute that door handle turns—don’t. Ask about their day and let them breathe for a second to decompress from that trip or duty period.

While communication is important, it’s also important to do it correctly. Discuss this with your spouse and ask what would be a good way to communicate with each other. Are they okay with getting text messages all day even if they can’t respond, or is there a certain time they always have a break and can readily receive them? For deployments, are daily emails a good way to keep in touch or would they like something once a week? Find what works with your marriage, schedule, and lifestyle.

Date Your Spouse

A young man and woman sitting on the dock of a lake enjoying a date together.

Yep, you read that right. Don’t stop dating each other! You, your spouse, or even both of you have a very important, demanding job. Don’t let it consume your life with seriousness. When your crazy schedule allows it, get out and do something fun. Continuing to date even after you’re married allows you to grow as a couple. Trying new things and visiting new places can get you out of a rut and bring some excitement to a scheduled life. Military and first responder jobs are very unpredictable and dangerous, so make the time you have together count. Forget about the dishes or the yard work—that can wait. When you look back on your relationship, you won’t remember those days you sat inside vacuuming the ceiling fan, but you will remember the night you decided to drive to the lake to watch the sunset with some ice cream. Live your life together, and don’t be afraid to take a step back and refocus on what’s important.

Marriage is hard and not always fun. Military and first responder marriages have that “scary” divorce rate which is even mentioned during academy and boot camps. Your family dynamic might be different than others’; you might move more than most or spend holidays apart, and that’s OK. It just gives you an opportunity to make more memories together in new towns or find new traditions. Work together with your marriage and speak up when something isn’t working for you. Don’t let your flame fizzle out. Love each other, appreciate each other, and don’t ever forget the feeling you felt when you said “I do.” This lifestyle is hard, but it’s worth it.

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